Signing a rental or lease agreement can be serious business. It’s a legal binding contract between you and your landlord. If you have roommates, there most likely going to sign this with you as another co-tenant. Unless other arrangments are made.
We’re going to review what prerequisites are required before an agreement can be signed.
- A Competed Rental Application
- A Credit Report
- A Criminal Background Check
- Personal References
- Employment & Income Verification
It’s perfectly reasonable for landlords to request some personal information from you before making a rental agreement. This information will be provided to them with the rental application and any other authorization forms you sign.
If they are not asking for it, I’d have a big question mark about them and presume that the place I might be renting is not legitimate. You may even consider walking away from it.
Who wants to pay for moving expenses to relocate to a place that has no real agreement about staying there for an extended period of time? Something to think about.
If you are a property owner and renting out rooms or other units you’ll be the landlord. So providing the rental agreement and authorization forms will be your responsibility. You’ll also be responsible for verifying the information of your roommates or tenants. Lucky you!
Lastly, we’ll also briefly review some important points that are normally in a rental/lease agreement.
Before we start you need to know that I’m not a lawyer, please review my legal disclaimer below.
Warning and Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so I cannot offer you any legal advice on reviewing agreements or contracts. But I am going to provide you some brief tips on things you should consider before signing your name to these documents.
Filling out a rental application is absolutely required for anyone signing a lease or month to month rental agreement with the landlord. All roommates will be required to do this.
It’s not a big deal, and it will ask you for very similar information that a job application would. Your full name, address, social security number, previous rental history, emergency contact information, etc.
This is all standard protocol and part of renting something.
No landlord or homeowner is going to rent to you if your credit is bad or you have a severe history of missing mortgage payments or not paying rent. A landlord’s worst nightmare is having to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent.
Before applying for any kind of credit check with a rental application I highly recommend you use Credit Karma to get your free credit score and Annual Credit Report to get a free copy of your credit report.
If you notice anything that is bad on your credit like a late payment. It’s a good idea to provide a written letter of explanation about the item with your rental application. This will show good merit on your part and help the landlord see past it when they see it on the report they pull.
BTW… If you have any issues with your credit score and need to repair your credit, you can review my Credit Repair articles for help.
Criminal Background Check
Landlords will normally run criminal background checks with a third party company (AKA. Tenant Screening Service). This may actually be included with the credit check depending on the company they use.
If you know you might have something negative on a criminal background check it will look really good if you disclose it up front with your application.
Provide a letter of explanation to the landlord so they have a better understanding of what might be found.
The references that will be requested are usually from old roommates, friends, or past landlords you rented from. A manager or co-worker from your place of work might also be required.
Let all the people you use as a reference know that you’re using their name. Just in case they get called from your new landlord.
If you are renting out a spare bedroom in your home, then you’ll be the landlord. For any new landlords verifying a tenant’s reference keep the following in mind.
When you’re doing a reference check on someone, and you call the current roommate or landlord. They might be willing to lie and say “Hey, there a great tenant (or roommate), you’d be lucky to have them, and I’m going to miss them oh so dearly.”
They might be saying something like that to get them out because they were, in fact, awful!
Most of the time reference checks are from honest people. Make sure to use your best judgment when verifying everything and you’ll be just fine.
Verifying Employment and Income
Landlords will ask for proof of income or employment from you and your other co-tenants.
It’s not a bad idea to confirm your new roommate’s income by checking their W2’s or recent paycheck stubs before they submit them to the landlord. Landlords will sometimes ask for tax returns, but it’s not likely unless you’re self-employed.
Sometimes landlords will even call your place of work to verify employment.
It’s most likely that any calls that are made to your company will be directed to the Human Resources Dept. for verification. That department is trained to provide all the right legal answers on behalf of you and the firm.
A landlord will always ask for these things if they’re correctly screening new tenants. But, only after the proper consent forms have been signed. Never before!
Rental & Lease Agreement
Sometimes a landlord might terminate an entire lease if just one of the co-tenants violates the terms. Like moving in a dog when it says NO PETS. Then the dog causes a bunch of damage and the landlord comes after both of you or takes the entire deposit.
Before you agree to any terms with a new landlord (or roommate), you need to inquire about any concerns you have relating to living and sharing the space with someone.
Make sure you clarify things like: Pet restrictions, long-term guests, parking permit limitations, smoking areas and the total money needed to cover the first month’s rent with the deposit.
This will all be covered in the Rental Agreement. If something concerns you and is missing, you can add it in as an amendment.
If you’re signing the lease yourself but later planning on renting out an extra bedroom in your place, make sure the landlord does not have any restrictions on doing so. If you own the home, then apparently there is no one to ask but yourself!
Rental agreements and applications are all pretty standard. You can see an example from my favorite self-help law website NOLO.com. The link is below.
That’s a lot of things to think about! But it’s better to be thorough in the beginning then later discover you missed something and now you’re living with the roommate from hell! And you’ve locked in a one year lease and can’t immediately part ways. Ouch.
You made it! You signed the agreement, and you’re ready to move in with your new roommate. Feel free to review my other Roommate Advice articles for more roommate tips.
And don’t forget about setting up a Roommate Agreement with your housemates.